Career and Job Search Guide

Secretary and Administrative Assistant

Dependency on new technology has altered the duties of office workers. Administrative assistants and secretaries have taken many responsibilities formerly performed by management as a result of company restructuring and increased use of automation technology, but their most important secretarial responsibilities have not changed, including office administrative responsibilities and relaying information from management to other employees.

Administrative assistants and secretaries are responsible for numerous duties vital for efficient business operations. They organize and file important records, communicate with clients and other employees, schedule appointments for management, and coordinate travel and guest accommodations.

Secretaries and administrative assistants must know how to use copying machines, electronic scanners, telecommunication technology, and fax machines. They also use computers to write reports, develop presentations with visual aids using desktop publishing technology, electronically store information in databases, and develop spreadsheets. Administrative assistants and secretaries also order office supplies, retrieve records, and speak with vendors to negotiate prices, as well as answering phones. Now that administrative assistants and secretaries spend less time preparing word processed documents and transcribing, they perform more organizational support duties for management. At many companies, they work in groups.

Secretaries and administrative assistants are now spending more time training employees, doing research, and maintaining office equipment.

There are many different types of secretaries and administrative specialists. Executive secretaries and administrative assistants usually work with upper management, so they don't have a lot of clerical responsibilities. They supervise other secretaries, set up conference calls, and review important documents and memos to determine the importance of these documents, and they schedule executive meetings and organize the agendas for these meetings.

Some administrative professionals, namely medical secretaries, must understand industry specific jargon since it is necessary to perform their jobs. Legal secretaries must understand industry specific language since they help lawyers prepare legal documents and letters. Additionally, they conduct legal research and help new attorneys prepare legal documents. Medical secretaries prepare letters, and help doctors draft reports and articles to be published in medical journals. Additionally, they also prepare basic medical records and coordinate hospital stays for patients. Medical secretaries should be familiar with billing, insurance, and hospital procedures. Technical secretaries working for engineers or scientific researchers perform similar duties as medical secretaries.

Secretaries working for schools are responsible for coordinating and executing necessary administrative functions and speaking with parents and community members with questions, so they must have knowledge about the school's policies and schedule of events. School secretaries also make appointments for administration, track student academic progress, and schedule rooms for school functions. Secretaries working closely with principals often resolve parents' concerns not requiring the principal's involvement.

Work environment. Administrative professionals work in government buildings, professional offices, hospitals, and schools. They often sit and work on computers for long hours, so they can experience back problems, eye strain, and joint problems, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome.

About 20 percent of administrative assistants are hired part time or work temporary secretarial jobs. Many work in teams of two where job duties are dived up. Most secretaries work full time.